October 17th, 2015


Two Questions about the Old Religion

I'm currently rereading Carrie's War, published in 1973 but set in around 1940. The action takes place in a rather dour South Welsh valley: the two evacuees around whom the book centres are billeted with a strict Methodist. However, they often escape to the friendly farmhouse at Druid's Bottom, where (as Carrie is told by the rather intellectual boy, Albert, who's been evacuated there) there was once an Iron Age settlement (at another point he says "temple"). He adds: "they've found similar temples in other parts of the world, the same sort of arrangement of stones, so they think this religion must have been everywhere once."

First question: who is "they"? Apart from Margaret Murray, perhaps? Who was arguing for that kind of universal prehistoric religion by 1940? (By 1973 I think plenty of people were.)

Secondly, Albert refers to both this ancient faith and the herbalist-wisdom-bordering-on-benign-witchcraft of the housekeeper at Druid's Bottom as "the old religion". I'm fairly sure that at the turn of the twentieth century that phrase would in most British contexts still denote Roman Catholicism. By 1973 its primary denotation was pagan. On which side of the divide does 1940 stand?